Welcome back, esteemed Partisans! I hope all the Partisan Operators out there have been making good use of the American Partisan Workout Fundamentals series! I still intend to write more posts for that series to detail more good workout options, exercises, and other related elements. Good stuff coming soon!
For now, though, I’d like to take a bit of a detour away from the physical part of fitness, and get into the other side of the fitness “coin”, which is eating and nutrition. Even this is simplistic, since “fitness” can even cover mental, spiritual, and emotional considerations if one is considering all-around health. But for the sake of keeping things simple and not getting too abstract, I tend to stick with the fitness topics of exercise and eating/nutrition, because these are the elements of fitness that are under our direct control, and that we can modify at will. On the other hand, mental, spiritual, and emotional health are (in my opinion) much harder to control, and I’m no expert at that stuff; so, I’ll just keep my coverage of fitness to exercise and eating/nutrition.
But, let’s think about that for a second: when it comes to fitness and, by extension, general health, we DO have options and positive control. It’s vital for the American Partisan to realize this, because there are just countless things in life over which we have NO control, but that still affect our lives and our health nonetheless. Therefore, it is an American Partisan’s solemn obligation to maximize his health by attending to those areas of health over which he does, indeed, have positive control, since there are just SO many uncontrollable factors negatively influencing health that are a basic condition of modern living! Everyone’s stressed out; people suck; everything causes cancer; the air quality is poor; how could I forget COVID??? And the list goes on and on. Nothing we can do about those things. But we can and must focus on those areas of health that are within our control: exercise and eating/nutrition. By attending to these areas of health and fitness, we can make the best of our lives and actually live quite healthy and well, despite the many negative health factors all around us. This is the spirit of my writings here – to empower Partisans with knowledge and options intended to make the most of their health and fitness.
That all being said, today’s post is the first in a new series that will cover first the theory, and then, some specific methods of getting and staying lean for life. Today’s post will focus on getting into the right frame of mind on the importance of getting and staying lean, which is about much more than just vanity. Just like the critical need for discipline to actually commit one’s self to a tough and productive exercise program, the American Partisan Operator needs to get into a particular disciplined mindset of self-control and good decision-making in order to get and stay lean. The first several posts in this How to Get Lean n’ Mean series will pave the way for follow-up posts that will present actual details on methods and practices for leaning out. But, as always, the Partisan reader should find all the ideas and practical tips I present to be simple, to make sense at the gut level, and to be immediately useful/useable. Of course, here comes my usual disclaimer: the ideas presented are my own, and are the product of my 26 years of fitness experience, both living the life, and training people in fitness; my goal is to help Partisans achieve fitness independence! I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I am confident that many Partisans will find this information new, interesting, and useful. So first, we’ll get into theory – let’s get started!
Why Being Lean is Important, Part I – Metabolic and Bodily Health
Where to begin? Being lean at all is a condition that seems to be quite uncommon in America and in pretty much any Western society these days. Everyone loves to consume, and one look around shows it very readily; not many people out there sporting the ol’ ripped six-pack abdominals. But a big old gut and excessive body fat are more than just unattractive; excess body fat and the negative physical effects that accompany it are just not healthy, especially in the long term. In fact, whenever you see a person carrying a lot of body fat, it isn’t just a sign of overconsumption; it’s also a visible sign of a dysfunctional metabolism.
First and foremost, let’s provide a definition of metabolism, which is certainly an important concept to understand for the American Partisan interested in improving his overall fitness and health; I’m not just trying to use big-sounding words here. According to Webster’s Dictionary Online, “metabolism” is “the chemical changes in living cells by which energy is provided for vital processes and activities and new material is assimilated”. My more straightforward and functional way to define “metabolism” that is relevant to this post is: the way your body deals with food. Period. Food contains energy (measured in units called “calories”) and chemical elements (like vitamins, minerals, and other chemical substances – either natural and/or artificial) that are consumed orally to fuel the body’s diverse processes and physical movement; the general categories of foods (called “macronutrients”) are: fats; carbohydrates (also known as “sugars”); and protein. Then, “metabolism” can be narrowed down to different sub-types, according to what type of macronutrient the body is trying to absorb, so: fat metabolism, sugar metabolism, and protein metabolism (we’ll get into a more involved and detailed discussion of these various types of macronutrients and their metabolisms in later posts, as relevant). Granted, this is a very simplified and functional explanation of metabolism, but again, I like fitness to be explained in a simple way, and without all the big, scientific words. And clearly, understanding the way the body deals with food is important to the American Partisan so that he can make better health and eating decisions, both for himself and for his family (why not??).
So, back to excess body fat being a visible sign of dysfunctional metabolism. Now that we know what food is and have a functional definition of “metabolism”, then when we add the word “dysfunctional” (which is just another way of saying, “messed up”) into that mix, we get “messed up way the body is dealing with energy and nutrients”. Over time (after all, excess body fat levels don’t occur overnight!), the body of the person with excess body fat is continuously forced to deal with all of the ongoing consumption, such that the body is getting overwhelmed with calories (energy) and chemical elements that it doesn’t naturally know what to do with; the human body was simply not designed to constantly overconsume or deal with foreign food chemicals. The excess of calories is then visibly stored as body fat, which is essentially a locally-stored form of energy, designed by nature in case of a famine… that never occurs. And yet, there is more going on than meets the eye! Just think for a second about just what kinds of consumables might have caused the excessive body fat to appear, and what chemical elements they contained? In a basic sense, any excess of food or liquid consumption (i.e., excessive intake of energy beyond one’s needs) can lead to excess fat, but the truth is that people pretty much don’t ever binge on high-quality, natural, and nutritious food. Do people typically stuff their faces with carrots, spinach, cod liver oil, organ meats, Himalayan/Celtic Sea Salt, olive oil, alfalfa sprouts, or even a grilled steak? Probably not.
No, healthy and natural foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial chemical elements are usually not the tastiest foods around (alas), and don’t lend themselves very well to binging. Like fitness legend Jack LaLanne said so well: “If it tastes good, spit it out.” Pretty grim, eh? But that quote is definitely on the money! The body has a natural, defined appetite shut-off/satisfaction point for low- to no-processed, natural foods that makes us far less inclined to overdo them. You get to a point of having foods like water, salt, vegetables, fruits, natural oils, and even a big old steak, after which you really don’t want anymore. However, the food and liquids that DO make a person fat are the foods that taste delicious and that we love due to the adjustments and chemical additions made to them by the processing of human hands (or machines), and that are, much of the time, really just consumable junk that is of little- to no nutritional value at all. These foods are often deliberately manipulated through processing and chemistry, and will typically have a much, much higher appetite shut-off/satisfaction point (especially sugars!), largely due to chemicals added and to the low level of actual nutrition remaining in the highly-processed food; when eating these foods, the body is seeking in vain to obtain nutrients by eating more of the food, but only getting lots of calories and bad chemistry instead, and not much else. And let’s not leave out sugar-rich foods of all types – another huge factor causing weight gain in and of itself; worse yet are highly-processed, sugar-rich foods – a double whammy. These types of low-quality foods are particularly prevalent in the typical American diet, which is often based largely on fast food, grains, and a whole pile of crap (like snack foods; alcoholic beverages; and other junk) that is made for the consumer’s convenience and taste, and also for maximum corporate profit, but definitely not made with the health of consumers in mind.
In fact, you could rightfully say “edible garbage” to describe the food people typically eat so much of in modern Western societies; I will use the term “edible garbage” from now on for food or drink that is unnatural, adjusted, high in sugar content, and/or excessively processed somehow by human hands or machine to look and taste good. Back to Jack LaLanne: “If man made it, don’t eat it”. Correct again! And, the more processing a food/liquid goes through for consumption, the less nutritional value it’s typically going to have, even under the best of circumstances! Some processing to make raw food more palatable is obviously necessary and acceptable. I mean, you could potentially eat a caveman-style diet of raw everything and that would truly be best, but most normal folks like their dinner cooked, some seasoning on their meat, or what have you; nothing terribly wrong with some rice and beans, a plate of pasta with marinara sauce, or a baked potato or two to go with your 18 oz. prime rib! But again, we’re referring to excessive processing as being a part of the overconsumption problem. Processing includes any type of heating (baking; frying; grilling; etc.); adding of preservatives; adding sugar; and/or chemical processes used to somehow modify the food or enhance flavor. And keep in mind: anything unnatural added to food – in other words, any substance added to food that is completely artificial – is a toxin present in your food. The American Heritage Dictionary Online defines “toxin” as “a poisonous or harmful nonbiological substance, such as a pollutant”. And so much of the “food” people are consuming these days is heavily loaded with toxins, which are obviously not healthy. On top of all that, there are also naturally-occurring food toxins; one classic example is alcohol. Not to say that a beer or shot or two is the end of the world, but let’s be honest… alcohol IS a caloric and toxic beverage that will potentially cause weight gain and health problems.
Once again, the calories contained within “edible garbage” have little to no nutrition in them – they are so-called “empty calories”, a term most people have probably heard before. However, the term “empty calories” almost sounds innocent and doesn’t even seem like a big deal, as if nothing were really happening except maybe some weight gain, which people falsely convince themselves they can just lose later. Wrong. The term “empty calories” doesn’t in any way address the actual harm these toxin-laden calories are causing to the body, as well as the amount of extra digestive work the body has to do to somehow assimilate all the calories contained in this “edible garbage”! The unhealthy, toxin-laden calories from “edible garbage”, etc., could more accurately be called “zombie calories”, because they actually cost your body precious nutrients and energy when the body has to counter the effects of the toxins and deal with these unreal foods that it wasn’t designed by nature to deal with. This detoxification process takes vital life force energy away from serving other important and necessary functions of the body, to boot. A high “zombie calorie” count will also put a person’s digestive system into an exhausting overdrive whose chemical and biological (“metabolic”) demands are much greater than what would otherwise be necessary for the body to process more nutritious, higher quality foods with a lower calorie count; this all comes at a price to your health over the course of time. That all being said, might you then say that the body can be damaged in dealing with (i.e., “metabolizing”) this “edible garbage”? You bet it can! There are many negative health consequences of a body’s difficulty (and later, the exhausted body’s outright inability) to process the excess of calories and food toxicity that go beyond simply carrying around extra fat; let’s just say that there is a “damage done” component to taking in too many calories from “edible garbage”, and the bill always comes due.
See, when we’re young and resilient, excess body fat may be the worst obvious result of overeating, and that’s already bad. But over time, after literally decades of consuming too many “zombie calories” from “edible garbage”, along with other potential negative factors (like a sedentary lifestyle – another major problem), the accumulated damage from forcing the exhausted body to deal with the steady stream of incoming toxicity, together with the excessive amount of caloric energy from poor eating leads to… bodily breakdown showing up as chronic illness. And the specific diagnosis of the illness is irrelevant; take your pick: heart disease; dementia; diabetes; even cancer! With any chronic illness, the body is breaking down as a result of decades of abuse and metabolic fatigue such that even the presence of excess body fat becomes a secondary issue! From the onset of chronic illness onward, it will be a life of pharmaceuticals and doctor visits for the chronically ill person, as well as a reduced quality of life and probably an early death. Not nice, and it almost makes being fat irrelevant at that advanced point of deterioration. I mean, a determined person can always takes steps to improve their health and reverse disease once diagnosed with a chronic illness, but it’s a serious uphill battle, for sure. From all this, it should then make good sense as to why obesity is cited as a major cause of morbidity. It’s not that being obese by itself somehow causes disease. Obesity is merely a byproduct of lifestyle, and is the extreme physical representation of the dysfunctional metabolism (resulting from the ongoing toxification and overloading of the body over time) that actually causes the increased morbidity of obesity. Make sense?
So let’s recap this section really quickly below to sum it all up:
- “Metabolism” = the way the body deals with food (my simplified definition)
- Food = energy and chemical substances used to fuel various bodily functions and movement
- Excessive body fat results from a dysfunctional metabolism (= “messed up way the body is dealing with food”)
- Foods that are high in caloric energy but low in, or totally lacking nutrition (“edible garbage”) due to processing are toxic and promote overeating; they also overburden the digestive system and take energy away from necessary bodily functions in order to help the body contend with the toxic, high-calorie load
- Continuous overeating of “edible garbage” will not only lead to likely excess body fat, but will likely lead to chronic illness over time, and being fat almost won’t directly matter anymore
- Chronic illness will cause you to become a ward of the medical establishment for life and your quality of life will suck… all because you didn’t watch your weight or food intake for too many years, and ignored one of the first signs of distress: excessive body fat/obesity
- Take command of your eating, and don’t let any of this happen in the first place!
Why Being Lean is Important, Part II – General Well-Being and Mood
Whew! Well, there’s the low-down on Why Being Lean is Important in regards to metabolic and bodily health. It almost seems like a compelling enough reason by itself to be lean, I’d say! But, there are even more good and important reasons to be lean. Here’s another nice and simple reason for why being lean is important: because to look good, is to feel good! Very basic! Not to sound shallow or vain, but being happy with your reflection in the mirror is a pretty primal need for emotional / spiritual / psychological well-being. A man doesn’t have to be obsessed with his appearance like some urban metrosexual (as an aside, I find those metro types, more often than not, to be overgroomed, wispy, and fragile-looking, in addition to me simply preferring a more basic and rugged outfit: jeans, boots, and a t-shirt!) in order to value a lean, tight look to his body. It just feels GOOD not to have to suck in your gut, to look good in a tank top, or to fit well into a two-piece suit! Feeling good about one’s self is VERY important, and fosters a generally positive mental attitude.
And we’ve all seen it – the dude that keeps pulling his t-shirt away from his big gut as if to hide it, or the guy at the beach wearing his shirt the entire time – despite the heat and sun. Chances are that these dudes don’t feel too hot about their appearance, and this has both obvious and subtle effects. The obvious effect of feeling poorly about one’s appearance is the awkwardness of trying in vain to hide it (as just mentioned) – but, people just KNOW you’re sucking in your gut or trying to hide it, so it’s futile and kind of silly… and the overweight person knows it, but does it anyway. Then, feeling badly about your appearance may even lead to a certain subconscious bitterness that makes you grumpier than you might otherwise be, or even makes you downright mean. A perfect and relevant example these days of the bitter overweight person (even if a bit extreme), in my opinion, is the iconic basement-dwelling social justice warrior, as embodied oh-so-well in the meme presented below:
I’d say that the meme were funny if these overweight social justice warrior types weren’t so numerous, shrill, and visible! But at least you get the point: being overweight can, and often will cause poor morale, which has many negative downstream effects. But the reverse is true as well: if you look good, you feel good, and if you feel good, you’re usually at your best! Being lean n’ mean thus maximizes your generally good mood and positive mental attitude, which usually leads to good outcomes. A good mood goes hand-in-hand with a “can-do” attitude, which is a critical mindset for the American Partisan Operator. All that from being lean n’ mean! What’s there not to like?
Why Being Lean is Important, Part III – Tactical Readiness
Finally, and very importantly – in fact, extremely importantly – is that being lean n’ mean is a sign that your body, which is really the only true physical possession that can’t be taken away from you, is in peak operational form and ready to rock. This by itself may dissuade a potential enemy from messing with you! A lighter body that is unburdened by dead fat weight will be able to perform better in pretty much every conceivable way than a body that has visible excess fat attached to it. That’s not to say I haven’t seen overweight dudes hold their own marvelously in a fight or out in tactical field training, but more often than not, this is just not the case. The fat dudes are usually sucking wind much sooner with any increase in physical movement intensity, and this is obviously a huge liability when it comes to warfighting. In fact, so much about warfighting depends on mobility and on being in good cardiovascular and conditioned shape to sustain that mobility, that a body carrying around excess fat is probably going to have a tough time meeting the breathing and movement demands of a high-intensity and/or continuous physical engagement of any sort – fighting with or without weapons; running uphill; jumping over chasms or fording obstacles; loading vehicles; and whatever else. The warrior that can carry on and better carry their own weight will likelier be the one that wins.
Just think about it: excess body fat is literally just useless, dead weight for the mobile, fighting warrior. Excess body fat has to be carried around whether you like it or not. Body fat insulates (causing higher body temperatures and faster fatiguing, as a result), and it has no functionality for the fighting man whatsoever; on the contrary – it’s an additional load to carry, but unlike the other components of your combat load, excess body fat is a tactically useless load that doesn’t fire any bullets, doesn’t provide any immediate fuel or nourishment; and doesn’t provide any trauma care. It’s just dead weight that slows you down, as such making you an easier target for your enemies, while also making you less functional and valuable to your team’s needs and mobility; in actuality, the excess body fat is increasing the danger to you and your team by slowing you down. How is that good at all? It’s not!
Finally, carrying around excess body fat is a huge burden on your joints, especially the hips, knees, and ankles. These workhorse joints already have to work hard, but now also have to bear the brunt of any excess body fat by having to support the dead weight of the fat with every step you take. Over time, this unnecessarily wears down your joints, which will already get worn down by aging and rigorous use, regardless! So why accelerate the breakdown process when you could instead enjoy excellent mobility to a ripe old age by eating well, staying lean, and maintaining a low body fat? Just check out the legend Jack LaLanne in his 70’s – almost unreal:
So, as if metabolic/bodily health and looking your best weren’t compelling and important enough reasons to be lean, then for the sake of your family, team, community, mobility, and the overall training and organizing efforts of American Partisans nationwide, you need to get lean so that you can be a better warrior. End of story. You are needed and you are irreplaceable, and so it your DUTY to be lean n’ mean, so that you can fight better for whenever that time actually comes. And it will. So be lean and be ready!
Hopefully, after reading through this post, my fellow American Partisans can well understand that being fat isn’t just unattractive, it’s a big problem in many ways; carrying excessive body fat is a liability to both the overweight person AND to people around them, as described. Thus, you owe it to yourself and your people to lean out for several critical reasons, as detailed above. And if that’s you, then be realistic, own it, and start thinking about how to correct the matter ASAP. ANYONE can do this, and remember: time is marching on. Tick tock… (h/t: Vagabond).
As this is a new series I’m beginning, I’ll get into some more theory on what it takes to lean out, as well as get into details on exactly HOW to lean out most effectively. For now, Partisans should keep attending to their hardcore workouts using the American Partisan Workout Fundamentals, and start preparing themselves to make some adjustments to their way of eating, if that’s what’s needed. Be honest with yourself! Eating and nutrition is not something you get around to; it needs to be actively managed and cared for if you want to get the best outcomes that actually mean something.
I’ll leave you with this final quote by Jack LaLanne: “You only live once, why be miserable? Fat people are miserable — you are carrying 50 lbs on your shoulders all day, you get a disease called ‘pooped-out itis’. Don’t tell me that they are happy with the way they look and feel. I have to be honest, that is all I have.” Go Jack!!